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TWO PLAYS FOR DANCERS 
BY W. B. YEATS 
























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TWO PLAYS FOR DANCERS 
BY W. B. YEATS 




THE CUALA PRESS 
MCMXIX 



TWO PLAYS FOR DANCERS 

PREFACE 

In a note at the end of my last book 'The Wild 
Swans at Coole' (Cuala Press.) I explained why I 
preferred this kind of drama, and where I had found 
my models, and where and how my first play after 
this kind was performed,and when and how I would 
have it performed in the future. I can but refer the 
reader to the note or to the long introduction to 
'Certain Noble Plays of Japan* (Cuala Press.) 

W. B. Yeats. October 1 1 th. 1 9 1 8 

P. S. That I might write 'The Dreaming of the 
Bones,' Mr. W. A. Henderson with great kindness 
wrote out for me all historical allusions to Dervor- 
gilla. 



THE DREAMING OF THE BONES 
The stage is any bare place in a room close to the 
wall. A screen with a pattern of mountain and sky 
can stand against the wall, or a curtain with a like 
pattern hang upon it, but the pattern must only 
symbolize or suggest. One musician enters and then 
two others, the first stands singing while the others 
take their places. Then all three sit down against 
the wall by their instruments, which are already 
there a drum, a zither, and a flute. Or they unfold 
a cloth as in 'The Hawk's Well/ while the instru- 
ments are carried in. 

FIRST MUSICIAN 

(or all three musicians, singing) 
Why does my heart beat so? 
Did not a shadow pass? 
It passed but a moment ago. 
Who can have trod in the grass? 
What rogue is night-wandering? 
Have not old writers said 
That dizzy dreams can spring 
From the dry bones of the dead? 
And many a night it seems 
That all the valley fills 
With those fantastic dreams. 
Tney overflow the hills, 
So passionate is a shade, 
b 



Like wine that fills to the top 
A grey-green cup of jade, 
Or maybe an agate cup. 

(speaking) The hour before dawn and the moon covered up, 
The little village of Abbey is covered up; 
The little narrow trodden way that runs 
From the white road to the Abbey of Corcomroe 
Is covered up; and all about the hills 
Are like a circle of Agate or of Jade. 
Somewhere among great rocks on the scarce grass 
Birds cry, they cry their loneliness. 
Even the sunlight can be lonely here, 
Even hot noon is lonely. I hear a footfall 
A young man with a lantern comes this way. 
He seems an Aran fisher, for he wears 
The flannel bawneen and the cow-hide shoe. 
He stumbles wearily, and stumbling prays. 
(A young man enters, praying in Irish) 
Once more the birds cry in their loneliness, 
But now they wheel about our heads; and now 
They have dropped on the grey stone to the north-east. 
(A man and a girl both in the costume of a past time, 
come in. They wear heroic masks) 
YOUNG MAN 

( raising his lantern) ^ 

Who is there? I cannot see what you are like, 
Come to the light. 



STRANGER 

But what have you to fear? 
YOUNG MAN 

And why have you come creeping through the dark. 
(The Girl blows out lantern) 

The wind has blown my lantern out. Where are you ? 
I saw a pair of heads against the sky 
And lost them after, but you are in the right 
I should not be afraid in County Clare; 
And should be or should not be have no choice, 
I have to put myself into your hands, 
Now that my candle's out. 

STRANGER 

You have fought in Dublin? 
YOUNG MAN 

I was in the Post Office, and if taken 
I shall be put against a wall and shot. 

STRANGER 

You know some place of refuge, have some plan 
Or friend who will come to meet you? 
YOUNG MAN 

I am to lie 

At daybreak on the mountain and keep watch 
Until an Aran coracle puts in 
At Muckanish or at the rocky shore 
Under Finvarra, but would break my neck 
If I went stumbling there alone in the dark. 

3 



STRANGER 

We know the pathways that the sheep tread out, 

And all the hiding-places of the hills, 

And that they had better hiding-places once. 

YOUNG MAN 

You'd say they had better before English robbers 
Cut down the trees or set them upon fire 
For fear their owners might find shelter there. 
What is that sound? 

STRANGER 

An old horse gone astray 
He has been wandering on the road all night. 

YOUNG MAN 

I took him for a man and horse. Police 
Are out upon the roads. In the late Rising 
I think there was no man of us but hated 
To fire at soldiers who but did their duty 
And were not of our race, but when a man 
Is born in Ireland and of Irish stock 
When he takes part against us 
STRANGER 

I will put you safe, 

No living man shall set his eyes upon you. 
I will not answer for the dead. 

YOUNG MAN 

The dead? 



STRANGER 

For certain days the stones where you must lie 
Have in the hour before the break of day 
Been haunted. 

YOUNG MAN 
But I was not born at midnight. 
STRANGER 

Many a man born in the full daylight 
Can see them plain, will pass them on the high-road 
Or in the crowded market-place of the town, 
And never know that they have passed. 

YOUNG MAN 

My Grandam 

Would have it they did penance everywhere 
Or lived through their old lives again. 
STRANGER 

In a dream; 

And some for an old scruple must hang spitted 
Upon the swaying tops of lofty trees; 
Some are consumed in fire, some withered up 
By hail and sleet out of the wintry North, 
And some but live through their old lives again. 

YOUNG MAN 

Well, let them dream into what shape they please 
And fill waste mountains with the invisible tumult 
Of the fantastic conscience. I have no dread; 
They cannot put me into jail or shoot me, 

5 



And seeing that their blood has returned to fields 
That have grown red from drinking blood like mine 
They would not if they could betray. 
STRANGER 

This pathway 

Runs to the ruined Abbey of Corcomroe; 
The Abbey passed, we are soon among the stone 
And shall be at the ridge before the cocks 
Of Aughanish or Bailevlehan 
Or grey Aughtmana shake their wings and cry. 
(They go round the stage once) 

FIRST MUSICIAN 

(speaking) They've passed the shallow well and the flat stone 
Fouled by the drinking cattle, the narrow lane 
Where mourners for five centuries have carried 
Noble or peasant to his burial. 
An owl is crying out above their heads, 
(singing) Why should the heart take fright 
What sets it beating so? 
The bitter sweetness of the night 
Has made it but a lonely thing. 
Red bird of March, begin to crow, 
Up with the neck and clap the wing, 
Red cock, and crow. 

(They go once round the stage. The first musician speaks.) 
And now they have climbed through the long grassy field 



And passed the ragged thorn trees and the gap 

In the ancient hedge; and the tomb-nested owl 

At the foot's level beats with a vague wing. 

(singing) My head is in a cloud; 

I'd let the whole world go. 

My rascal heart is proud 

Remembering and remembering. 

Red bird of March, begin to crow, 

Up with the neck and clap the wing 

Red cock and crow. 

(They go round the stage. The first musician speaks.) 

They are among the stones above the ash 

Above the briar and thorn and the scarce grass; 

Hidden amid the shadow far below them 

The cat-headed bird is crying out. 

(singing) The dreaming bones cry out 

Because the night winds blow 

And heaven's a cloudy blot; 

Calamity can have its fling. 

Red bird of March begin to crow, 

Up with the neck and clap the wing 

Red cock and crow. 

THE STRANGER 
We're almost at the summit and can rest. 
The road is a faint shadow there; and there 
The abbey lies amid its broken tombs. 
In the old days we should have heard a bell 

7 



Calling the monks before day broke to pray; 
And when the day has broken on the ridge, 
The crowing of its cocks. 

YOUNG MAN 

Is there no house 

Famous for sanctity or architectural beauty 
In Clare or Kerry, or in all wide Connacht 
The enemy has not unroofed? 

STRANGER 

Close to the altar 

Broken by wind and frost and worn by time 
Donogh O'Brien has a tomb, a name in Latin. 
He wore fine clothes and knew the secrets of women 
But he rebelled against the King of Thomond 
And died in his youth. 

YOUNG MAN 

And why should he rebel? 
The King of Thomond was his rightful master. 
It was men like Donogh who made Ireland weak 
My curse on all that troop, and when I die 
111 leave my body, if I have any choice, 
Far from his ivy tod and his owl; have those 
Who, if your tale is true, work out a penance 
Upon the mountain-top where I am to hide, 
Come from the Abbey graveyard? 
THE GIRL 

They have not that luck, 
8 



But are more lonely, those that are buried there, 
Warred in the heat of the blood; if they were rebels 
Some momentary impulse made them rebels 
Or the comandment of some petty king 
Who hated Thomond. Being but common sinners, 
No callers in of the alien from oversea 
They and their enemies of Thomond's party 
Mix in a brief dream battle above their bones, 
Or make one drove or drift in amity, 
Or in the hurry of the heavenly round 
Forget their earthly names; these are alone 
Being accursed. 

YOUNG MAN 

And if what seems is true 
And there are more upon the other side 
Than on this side of death, many a ghost 
Must meet them face to face and pass the word 
Even upon this grey and desolate hill. 

YOUNG GIRL 

Until this hour no ghost or living man 
Has spoken though seven centuries have run 
Since they, weary of life and of men's eyes, 
Flung down their bones in some forgotten place 
Being accursed. 

YOUNG MAN 

I have heard that there are souls 
Who, having sinned after a monstrous fashion 
c 9 



Take on them, being dead, a monstrous image 
To drive the living, should they meet its face, 
Crazy, and be a terror to the dead. 

YOUNG GIRL 

But these 

Were comely even in their middle life 
And carry, now that they are dead, the image 
Of their first youth, for it was in that youth 
Their sin began. 

YOUNG MAN 

I have heard of angry ghosts 
Who wander in a wilful solitude. 

THE GIRL 

These have no thought but love; nor joy 
But that upon the instant when their penance 
Draws to its height and when two hearts arc wrung 
Nearest to breaking, if hearts of shadows break, 
His eyes can mix with hers; nor any pang 
That is so bitter as that double glance, 
Being accursed. 

YOUNG MAN 

But what is this strange penance 
That when their eyes have met can wring them most? 

THE GIRL 
Though eyes can meet, their lips can never meet. 

YOUNG MAN 
And yet it seems they wander side by side. 

10 



But doubtless you would say that when lips meet 
And have not living nerves, it is no meeting. 

THE GIRL 

Although they have no blood or living nerves 
Who once lay warm and live the live-long night 
In one another's arms, and know their part 
In life, being now but of the people of dreams, 
Is a dreams part; although they are but shadows 
Hovering between a thorn tree and a stone 
Who have heaped up night on winged night; although 
No shade however harried and consumed 
Would change his own calamity for theirs, 
Their manner of life were blessed could their lips 
A moment meet; but when he has bent his head 
Close to her head or hand would slip in hand 
The memory of their crime flows up between 
And drives them apart. 

YOUNG MAN 

The memory of a crime 
He took her from a husband's house it may be, 
But does the penance for a passionate sin 
Last for so many centuries? 

THE GIRL 

No, no, 

The man she chose, the man she was chosen by 
Cared little and cares little from whose house 
They fled towards dawn amid the flights of arrows 

1 1 



Or that it was a husband's and a king's; 
And how if that were all could she lack friends 
On crowded roads or on the unpeopled hill? 
Helen herself had opened wide the door 
Where night by night she dreams herself awake 
And gathers to her breast a dreaming man. 

YOUNG MAN 

What crime can stay so in the memory? 
What crime can keep apart the lips of lovers 
Wandering and alone? 

THE GIRL 

Her king and lover 

Was overthrown in battle by her husband 
And for her sake and for his own, being blind 
And bitter and bitterly in love, he brought 
A foreign army from across the sea. 

YOUNG MAN 

You speak of Dermot and of Dervorgilla 
Who brought the Norman in? 
THE GIRL 

Yes, yes I spoke 

Of that most miserable, most accursed pair 
Who sold their country into slavery, and yet 
They were not wholly miserable and accursed 
If somebody of their race at last would say: 
'I have forgiven them/ 



12 



YOUNG MAN 

Oh, never, never 
Will Dermot and Dervorgilla be forgiven. 

THE GIRL 

If someone of their race forgave at last 
Lip would be pressed on lip. 

YOUNG MAN 

Oh, never, never 

Will Dermot and Dervorgilla be forgiven. 
You have told your story well, so well indeed 
I could not help but fall into the mood 
And for a while believe that it was true 
Or half believe, but better push on now. 
The horizon to the East is growing bright. 
(They go once round stage) 
So here we're on the summit. I can see 
The Aran Islands, Connemara Hills, 
And Galway in the breaking light; there too 
The enemy has toppled wall and roof 
And torn from ancient walls to boil his pot 
The oaken panelling that had been dear 
To generations of children and old men. 
But for that pair for whom you would have my pardon 
It might be now like Bayeux or like Caen 
Or little Italian town amid its walls 
For though we have neither coal nor iron ore 
To make us rich and cover heaven with smoke 

'3 



Our country, if that crime were uncommitted 
Had been most beautiful. Why do you dance? 
Why do you gaze and with so passionate eyes 
One on the other and then turn away 
Covering your eyes and weave it in a dance, 
Who are you? what are you? you are not natural. 

THE GIRL 
Seven hundred years our lips have never met. 

YOUNG MAN 

Why do you look so strangely at one another, 
So strangely and so sweetly? 

THE GIRL 

Seven hundred years. 

YOUNG MAN 

So strangely and so sweetly. All the ruin, 
All, all their handiwork is blown away 
As though the mountain air had blown it away 
Because their eyes have met. They cannot hear, 

Being folded up and hidden in their dance. 
The dance is changing now. They have dropped their eyes, 
They have covered up their eyes as though their hearts 
Had suddenly been broken never, never 
Shall Dermot and Dervorgilla be forgiven. 
They have drifted in the dance from rock to rock. 
They have raised their hands as though to snatch the sleep 
That lingers always in the abyss of the sky 
Though they can never reach it. A cloud floats up 



And covers all the mountain head in a moment. 
And now it lifts and they are swept away. 
I had almost yielded and forgiven it all 
This is indeed a place of terrible temptation. 
(The Musicians begin unfolding and folding a black 
cloth. The First Musician comes forward to the 
front of the stage, at the centre. He holds the cloth 
before him. The other two come one on either side 
and unfold it. They afterwards fold it up in the same 
way. While it is unfolded, the Young Man leaves 
the stage) 

THE MUSICIANS 

I 

(singing) At the grey round of the hill 
Music of a lost kingdom 
Runs, runs and is suddenly still. 
The winds out of Clare-Galway 
Carry it: suddenly it is still. 

I have heard in the night air 
A wandering airy music; 
And moidered in that snare 
A man is lost of a sudden, 
In that sweet wandering snare. 

What finger first began 
Music of a lost kingdom. 

15 



They dreamed that laughed in the sun. 
Dry bones that dream are bitter, 
They dream and darken our sun. 

Those crazy fingers play 

A wandering airy music; 

Our luck is withered away, 

And wheat in the wheat-ear withered, 

And the wind blows it away. 

II 

My heart ran wild when it heard 
The curlew cry before dawn 
And the eddying cat-headed bird; 
But now the night is gone. 
I have heard from far below 
The strong March birds a-crow, 
Stretch neck and clap the wing, 
Red cocks, and crow. 



THE ONLY JEALOUSY OF EMER 
Enter Musicians, who are dressed as in the earlier, 
play. They have the same musical instruments, 
which can either be already upon the stage or be 
brought in by the First Musician before he stands 
in the centre with the cloth between his hands, or 
by a player when the cloth is unfolded. The stage as 
before can be against the wall of any room. 

FIRST MUSICIAN 

(During the unfolding and folding of the cloth) 

A woman's beauty is like a white 

Frail bird, like a white sea-bird alone 

At daybreak after stormy night 

Between two furrows upon the ploughed land: 

A sudden storm and it was thrown 

Between dark furrows upon the ploughed land. 

How many centuries spent 

The sedentary soul 

In toils of measurement 

Beyond eagle or mole, 

Beyond hearing or seeing, 

Or Archimedes guess, 

To raise into being 

That loveliness? 

A strange unserviceable thing, 
A fragile, exquisite, pale shell, 
d 17 



That the vast troubled waters bring 

To the loud sands before day has broken. 

The storm arose and suddenly fell 

Amid the dark before day had broken. 

What death? what discipline? 

What bonds no man could unbind 

Being imagined within 

The labyrinth of the mind? 

What pursuing or fleeing? 

What wounds, what bloody press? 

Dragged into being 

This loveliness. 

(When the cloth is folded again the Musicians take 

their place against wall. The folding of the cloth 

shows on one side of the stage the curtained bed or 

litter on which lies a man in his grave-clothes. He 

wears an heroic mask. Another man with exactly 

similar clothes and mask crouches near the front. 

Emer is sitting beside the bed.) 

FIRST MUSICIAN 
(speaking) I call before the eyes a roof 
With cross-beams darkened by smoke. 
A fisher's net hangs from a beam, 
A long oar lies against the wall. 
I call up a poor fisher's house. 
A man lies dead or swooning, 
That amorous man, 

18 



That amorous, violent man, renowned Cuchulain, 

Queen Emer at his side. 

At her own bidding all the rest have gone. 

But now one comes on hesitating feet, 

Young Eithne Inguba, Cuchulain's mistress. 

She stands a moment in the open door, 

Beyond the open door the bitter sea, 

The shining, bitter sea is crying out, 

(singing) White shell, white wing 

I will not choose for my friend 

A frail unserviceable thing 

That drifts and dreams, and but knows 

That waters are without end 

And that wind blows. 

EMER 

(speaking) Come hither, come sit down beside the bed 
You need not be afraid, for I myself 
Sent for you, Eithne Inguba. 

EITHNE INGDBA 

No, Madam, 
I have too deeply wronged you to sit there. 

EMER 

Of all the people in the world we two, 
And we alone, may watch together here, 
Because we have loved him best. 

EITHNE INGUBA 

And is he dead? 

'9 



EMER 

Although they have dressed him out in his grave-clothes 

And stretched his limbs, Cuchulain is not dead; 

The very heavens when that day's at hand, 

So that his death may not lack ceremony, 

Will throw out fires, and the earth grow red with blood. 

There shall not be a scullion but foreknows it 

Like the world's end. 

EITHNE INGUBA 

How did he come to this? 
EMER 

Towards noon in the assembly of the kings 
He met with one who seemed a while most dear. 
The kings stood round ; some quarrel was blown up ; 
He drove him out and killed him on the shore 
At Baile's tree, and he who was so killed 
Was his own son begot on some wild woman 
When he was young, or so I have heard it said; 
And thereupon, knowing what man he had killed, 
And being mad with sorrow, he ran out; 
And after to his middle in the foam 
With shield before him and with sword in hand, 
He fought the deathless sea. The kings looked on 
And not a king dared stretch an arm, or even 
Dared call his name, but all stood wondering 
In that dumb stupor like cattle in a gale, 
Until at last, as though he had fixed his eyes 

20 



On a new enemy, he waded out 
Until the water had swept over him; 
But the waves washed his senseless image up 
And laid it at this door. 

EITHNE INGUBA 

How pale he looks! 
EMER 
He is not dead. 

EITHNE INGUBA 

You have not kissed his lips 
Nor laid his head upon your breast. 

EMER 

It may be 

An image has been put into his place, 
A sea-born log bewitched into his likeness, 
Or some stark horseman grown too old to ride 
Among the troops of Mananan, Son of the Sea, 
Now that his joints are stiff. 

EITHNE INGUBA 

Cry out his name. 

All that are taken from our sight, they say, 
Loiter amid the scenery of their lives 
For certain hours or days, and should he hear 
He might, being angry drive the changeling out. 

EMER 

It is hard to make them hear amid their darkness, 
And it is long since I could call him home; 

21 



I am but his wife, but if you cry aloud 
With that sweet voice that is so dear to him 
He cannot help but listen. 

EITHNE INGUBA 

He loves me best, 

Being his newest love, but in the end 
Will love the woman best who loved him first 
And loved him through the years when love seemed lost. 

EMER 

I have that hope, the hope that some day and somewhere 
We'll sit together at the hearth again. 

EITHNE INGUBA 

Women like me when the violent hour is over 
Are flung into some corner like old nut shells. 
Cuchulain, listen. 

EMER 

No, not yet for first 
I'll cover up his face to hide the sea; 
And throw new logs upon the hearth and stir 
The half burnt logs until they break in flame. 
Old Mananan's unbridled horses come 
Out of the sea and on their backs his horsemen 
But all the enchantments of the dreaming foam 
Dread the hearth fire. 

(She pulls the curtains of the bed so as to hide the 
sick man's face, that the actor may change his mask 
unseen. She goes to one side of platform and moves 

22 



her hand as though putting logs on a fire and stir- 
ring it into a blaze. While she makes these move- 
ments the Musicians play, marking the movements 
with drum and flute perhaps. 

Having finished she stands beside the imaginary 
fire at a distance from Cuchulain & Eithne Inguba.) 

Call on Cuchulain now. 
EITHNE INGUBA 
Can you not hear my voice. 

EMER 

Bend over him. 

Call out dear secrets till you have touched his heart 
If he lies there; and if he is not there 
Till you have made him jealous. 

EITHNE INGUBA 

Cuchulain, listen. 
EMER 

You speak too timidly; to be afraid 
Because his wife is but three paces off 
When there is so great a need were but to prove 
The man that chose you made but a poor choice. 
We're but two women struggling with the sea. 
EITHNE INGUBA 

my beloved pardon me, that I 

Have been ashamed and you in so great need. 

1 have never sent a message or called out, 
Scarce had a longing for your company 



But you have known and come; and if indeed 
You are lying there stretch out your arms and speak ; 
Open your rriouth and speak for to this hour 
My company has made you talkative. 
Why do you mope, and what has closed your ears. 
Our passion had not chilled when we were parted 
On the pale shore under the breaking dawn. 
He will not hear me: or his ears are closed 
And no sound reaches him. 

EMER 

Then kiss that image 

The pressure of your mouth upon his mo\ith 
May reach him where he is. 

EITHNE INGUBA 

(starting back) It is no man. 
I felt some evil thing that dried my heart 
When my lips touched it. 

EMER 

No, his body stirs; 

The pressure of your mouth has called him home; 
He has thrown the changeling out. 
EITHNE INGUBA 
(going further off) Look at that arm 
That arm is withered to the very socket. 

EMER 

(going up to the bed) 
What do you come for and from where? 

24 



FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 

I have come 
From Mananan's court upon a bridleless horse. 

EMER 

What one among the Sidhe has dared to lie 
Upon Cuchulain's bed and take his image? 

FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 
I am named Bricriu not the man that Bricriu, 
Maker of discord among gods and men, 
Called Bricriu of the Sidhe. 

EMER 

Come for what purpose? 
FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 
(sitting up and showing its distorted face. Eithne 
Inguba goes out) 

I show my face and everything he loves 
Must fly away. 

EMER 

You people of the wind 
Are full of lying speech and mockery. 
I have not fled your face. 

FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 

You are not loved. 
EMER 

And therefore have no dread to meet your eyes 
And to demand him of you. 



FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 

For that I have come. 
You have but to pay the price and he is free. 

EMER 
Do the Sidhe bargain? 

FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 

When they set free a captive 
They take in ransom a less valued thing. 
The fisher when some knowledgeable man 
Restores to him his wife, or son, or daughter, 
Knows he must lose a boat or net, or it may be 
The cow that gives his children milk; and some 
Have offered their own lives. I do not ask 
Your life, or any valuable thing; 
You spoke but now of the mere chance that some day 
You'd sit together by the hearth again; 
Renounce that chance, that miserable hour, 
And he shall live again. 

EMER 

I do not question 

But you have brought ill luck on all he loves 
And now, because I am thrown beyond your power 
Unless your words are lies, you come to bargain. 

FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 
You loved your power when but newly married 
And I love mine although I am old and withered; 

26 



You have but to put yourself into that power 
And he shall live again. 

EMER 

No, never, never. 
FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 
You dare not be accursed yet he has dared. 

EMER 

I have but two joyous thoughts, two things I prize, 
A hope, a memory, and now you claim that hope. 

FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 
He'll never sit beside you at the hearth 
Or make old bones, but die of wounds and toil 
On some far shore or mountain, a strange woman 
Beside his mattress. 

EMER 

You ask for my one hope 
That you may bring your curse on all about him. 

FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 

You've watched his loves and you have not been jealous 
Knowing that he would tire, but do those tire 
That love the Sidhe? 

EMER 

What dancer of the Sidhe 
What creature of the reeling moon has pursued him? 

FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 
I have but to touch your eyes and give them sight; 
But stand at my left side. (He touches her eyes with 
his left hand, the right being withered) 

27 



EMER 

My husband there. 
FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 

But out of reach I have dissolved the dark 
That hid him from your eyes but not that other 
That's hidden you from his. 

EMER 

Husband, husband! 
FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 
Be silent, he is but a phantom now 
And he can neither touch, nor hear, nor see; 
The longing and the cries have drawn him hither. 
He heard no sound, heard no articulate sound; 
They could but banish rest, and make him dream r 
And in that dream, as do all dreaming shades 
Before they are accustomed to their freedom, 
He has taken his familiar form, and yet 
He crouches there not knowing where he is 
Or at whose side he is crouched, 
(a Woman of the Sidhehas entered and stands a lit- 
tle inside the door) 

EMER 

Who is this woman? 
FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 
She has hurried from the Country-Under-Wave 
And dreamed herself into that shape that he 
May glitter in her basket; for the Sidhe 

28 



Are fishers also and they fish for men 
With dreams upon the hook. 

EMER 

And so that woman 

Has hid herself in this disguise and made 
Herself into a lie. 

FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 

A dream is body; 

The dead move ever towards a dreamless youth 
And when they dream no more return no more; 
And those more holy shades that never lived 
But visit you in dreams. 

EMER 

I know her sort. 

They find our men asleep, weary with war, 
Or weary with the chase and kiss their lips 
And drop their hair upon them, from that hour 
Our men, who yet knew nothing of it all, 
Are lonely, and when at fall of night we press 
Their hearts upon our hearts their hearts are cold. 
(She draws a knife from her girdle) 

FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 
And so you think to wound her with a knife. 
She has an airy body. Look and listen; 
I have not given you eyes and ears for nothing. 
(The Woman of the Sidhe moves round the crou- 
ching Ghost of Cuchulain at front of stage in a 

29 



dance that grows gradually quicker, as he slowly a- 
wakes. At moments she may drop her hair upon his 
head but she does not kiss him. She is accompanied 
by string and flute and drum. Her mask and clothes 
must suggest gold or bronze or brass or silver so that 
she seems more an idol than a human being. This 
suggestion may be repeated in her movements. Her 
hair too, must keep the metallic suggestion.) 

GHOST of CUCHULAIN 
Who is it stands before me there 
Shedding such light from limb and hair 
As when the moon complete at last 
With every labouring crescent past, 
And lonely with extreme delight, 
Flings out upon the fifteenth night? 

WOMAN of the SIDHE 
Because I long I am not complete. 
What pulled your hands about your feet 
And your head down upon your knees, 
And hid your face? 

GHOST of CUCHULAIN 

Old memories: 

A dying boy, with handsome face 
Upturned upon a beaten place; 
A sacred yew-tree on a strand; 
A woman that held in steady hand 
In all the happiness of her youth 

3 



Before her man had broken troth, 
A burning wisp to light the door; 
And many a round or crescent more; 
Dead men and women. Memories 
Have pulled my head upon my knees. 

WOMAN of the SIDHE 
Could you that have loved many a woman 
That did not reach beyond the human, 
Lacking a day to be complete, 
Love one that though her heart can beat, 
Lacks it but by an hour or so. 

GHOST of CUCHULAIN 
I know you now for long ago 
I met you on the mountain side, 
Beside a well that seemed long dry, 
Beside old thorns where the hawk flew. 
I held out arms and hands but you, 
That now seem friendly, fled away 
Half woman and half bird of prey. 

WOMAN of the SIDHE 
Hold out your arms and hands again 
You were not so dumbfounded when 
I was that bird of prey and yet 
I am all woman now. 

GHOST of CUCHULAIN 

I am not 
The young and passionate man I was 

3 1 



And though that brilliant light surpass 
All crescent forms, my memories 
Weigh down my hands, abash my eyes. 

WOMAN of the SIDHE 
Then kiss my mouth. Though memory 
Be beauty's bitterest enemy 
I have no dread for at my kiss 
Memory on the moment vanishes: 
Nothing but beauty can remain. 

GHOST of CUCHULAIN 
And shall I never know again 
Intricacies of blind remorse? 

WOMAN of the SIDHE 
Time shall seem to stay his course, 
For when your mouth and my mouth meet 
All my round shall be complete 
Imagining all its circles run ; 
And there shall be oblivion 
Even to quench Cuchulain's drouth, 
Even to still that heart. 

GHOST of CUCHULAIN 

Your mouth. 

(They are about to kiss, he turns away) 
O Emer, Emer. 

WOMAN of the SIDHE 

So then it is she 

Made you impure with memory. 

32 



GHOST of CUCHULAIN 
Still in that dream I see you stand, 
A burning wisp in your right hand, 
To wait my coming to the house, 
As when our parents married us. 

WOMAN oftheSIDHE 
Being among the dead you love her 
That valued every slut above her 
While you still lived. 

GHOST of CUCHULAIN 

O my lost Emer. 

WOMAN oftheSIDHE 
And there is not a loose-tongued schemer 
But could draw you if not dead, 
From her table and her bed. 
How could you be fit to wive 
With flesh and blood, being born to live 
Where no one speaks of broken troth 
For all have washed out of their eyes 
Wind blown dirt of their memories 
To improve their sight? 

GHOST of CUCHULAIN 

Your mouth, your mouth. 

(Their lips approach but Cuchulain turns away as 
Emer speaks.) 

EMER 

If he may live I am content, 
Content that he shall turn on me, 

f 33 



If but the dead will set him free 
That I may speak with him at whiles, 
Eyes that the cold moon or the harsh sea 
Or what I know not's made indifferent. 

GHOST of CUCHULAIN 
What a wise silence has fallen in this dark ! 
I know you now in all your ignorance 
Of all whereby a lover's quiet is rent. 
What dread so great as that he should forget 
The least chance sight or sound, or scratch or mark 
On an old door, or frail bird heard and seen 
In the incredible clear light love cast 
All round about her some forlorn lost day? 
That face, though fine enough, is a fool's face 
And there's a folly in the deathless Sidhe 
Beyond man's reach. 

WOMAN of the SIDHE 

I told you to forget 

After my fashion; you would have none of it; 
So now you may forget in a man's fashion. 
There's an unbridled horse at the sea's edge. 
Mount; it will carry you in an eye's wink 
To where the King of Country-Under-Wave, 
Old Mananan, nods above the board and moves 
His chessmen in a dream. Demand your life 
And come again on the unbridled horse. 

GHOST of CUCHULAIN 
Forgive me those rough words. How could you know 

34 



That man is held to those whom he has loved 
By pain they gave, or pain that he has given, 
Intricacies of pain. 

WOMAN oftheSIDHE 

I am ashamed 

That being of the deathless shades I chose 
A man so knotted to impurity. 
(The Ghost of Cuchulain goes out) 

WOMAN oftheSIDHE 

(to Figure of Cuchulain) 
To you that have no living light, but dropped 
From a last leprous crescent of the moon, 
I owe it all. 

FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 

Because you have failed 
I must forego your thanks, I that took pity 
Upon your love and carried out your plan 
To tangle all his life and make it nothing 
That he might turn to you. 

WOMAN oftheSIDHE 

Was it from pity 
You taught the woman to prevail against me? 

FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 
You know my nature by what name I am called. 

WOMAN of the SIDHE 
Was it from pity that you hid the truth 



35 



That men are bound to women by the wrongs 
They do or suffer? 

FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 

You know what being I am. 
WOMAN oftheSIDHE 

I have been mocked and disobeyed your power 
Was more to you than my good- will, and now 
I'll have you learn what my ill-will can do; 
I lay you under bonds upon the instant 
To stand before our King and face the charge 
And take the punishment. 

FIGURE of CUCHULAIN 

I'll stand there first. 
And tell my story first, and Mananan 
Knows that his own harsh sea made my heart cold. 

WOMAN of the SIDHE 
My horse is there and shall outrun your horse. 
(The Figure of Cuchulain falls back, the Woman 
of the Sidhegoes out. Drum taps, music resembling 
horse hoofs.) 

EITHNE INGUBA 

(entering quickly) 

I heard the beat of hoofs, but saw no horse, 
And then came other hoofs and after that 
I heard low angry cries and thereupon 
I ceased to be afraid. 



EMER 

Cuchulain wakes. 

(The figure turns round. It once more wears the her- 
oic mask.) 

CUCHULAIN 

Eithne Inguba take me in your arms, 
I have been in some strange place and am afraid. 
(The First Musician comes to the front of stage, 
the others from each side and unfold the cloth sing- 

in g) 

THE MUSICIANS 

What makes her heart beat thus, 
Plain to be understood 
I have met in a man's house 
A statue of solitude, 
Moving there and walking; 
Its strange heart beating fast 
For all our talking. 
O still that heart at last. 

O bitter reward! 

Of many a tragic tomb ! 

And we though astonished are dumb 

And give but a sigh and a word 

A passing word. 

Although the door be shut 
And all seem well enough, 

37 



Although wide world hold not 
A man but will give you his love 
The moment he has looked at you, 
He that has loved the best 
May turn from a statue 
His too human breast. 

O bitter reward! 

Of many a tragic tomb ! 

And we though astonished are dumb 

Or give but a sigh and a word 

A passing word. 

What makes your heart so beat? 
Some one should stay at her side. 
When beauty is complete 
Her own thought will have died 
And danger not be diminished; 
Dimmed at three quarter light 
When moon's round is finished 
The stars are out of sight. 

O bitter reward ! 

Of many a tragic tomb ! 

And we though astonished are dumb 

Or give but a sigh and a word 

A passing word. 

(When the cloth is folded again the stage is bare.) 



Here ends, 'Two Plays for Dancers:' 
by William Butler Yeats. Four hun- 
dred copies of this book have been 
printed and published by Elizabeth 
Corbet Yeats on paper made in Ire- 
land, at the Cuala Press,Churchtown, 
Dundrum, in the County of Dublin, 
Ireland. Finished on the tenth day of 
January in the year nineteen hundred 
and nineteen.